Upon listening to a sermon offered by a former student and taking notes…..
To Daniel Gregorie: An excerpt from my daily journal notes/thoughts (and so forgive the literary flow and format): A post-homiletic reflection, or upon further thought…a thought.
Romans 12: 21- “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
A very short, and yet very often quoted part of scripture used by Martin Luther King. In light of your sermon on Sunday (“When Being Right is Wrong”), can you understand why? In a world where every person is at risk of being taken hostage by the endless pursuit of materialism. Where there is a great and constant fear that we live a continuous risk of feeling that someone else will “win”, and that (therefore) we will “lose”. Where the poor, and politically disinherited run the great risk of not being able to realize their full humanity. And then there is the risk of disassociation and disconnection from fame and fortune, if we dare cry out against evil acts visited upon the most defenseless members of our human family; those who are the least able to reward us with that same fame and fortune we so covet. In all of this stands the person who runs the risk of being defellow-shipped out from a mercantile culture that holds us in ethical check by either greed or fear. In all honesty, there is a price to pay for being, “wrong” (and we must say this in light of my comments to you, concerning the false promises of the “gospel of financial prosperity” movement, or the sanctification and justification through wealth accumulation approach.
This is where God acts like a great ATM machine in the sky. A God (and I never understood this part) who wants, “right-true believers” to prosper financially in the midst of poverty; while others, presumably less true believing-believers, or non-believers, are left to wallow in their unblessed impoverished state. The tough theological explanation here is understandably avoided, for it contradicts what the people see when they exit the church. It is sort of like teaching a child not to solve problems by the use of violence; by using violence (spanking) as a teaching model. The kids get it: When a misunderstanding exist, the problem can be effectively solved through the use of violence! By avoiding a tough theology (which thankfully you did not) the congregants have reason to doubt that “blessed are the poor”; thus this causes the “believing masses” to speak like a believer, but to behave like an “operational agnostic”. The truth is, that in this world (the world they see every day), “bad people” can and do have a very good (and perhaps the best) chance of financial success. Their chances are enhanced because they adhere to the selfish-exploitation rules of our commercialized society. And perhaps that is why studies always reveal that a small fraction of “Church goers” actually tithe; is this because the majority that don’t tithe are hedging their secular bets? At least one NYC pastor was honest (if not exegetically challenged) about this: “Yes, the poor will always be with us; I just don’t want to be one of them”. He was speaking of his rich and lavish “blessings” life-style; while at the same time, he squeezed the last rent and food bill dollar out of his poor congregant’s pockets. Make no mistake, being right (wrong in the: “city of man”) comes at a great cost; and perhaps we should not under (thankfully you did not) explain it! Yes, as James Baldwin once wrote; there is: “The price of the ticket”; that is, a ticket to not ride a float that is destined and determined to make you lose sight of who you are, who you can be, in committed and creative service to humanity. And it can and will be a very heavy price to pay. The price of the choice of wanting others to win, with you. The price of not invoking and exacting one of the least effective of human emotions-revenge. The choice to resist the constant urge that only you, your friends and family, your neighborhood, those who share your religious beliefs, who look the most like you; those, who through no effort on their part, have a citizenship status (and not those trapped, without human status on the border); your nationality, ethic group; yes, the misinformed and morally shortsighted thought, that only you, and your “group” have suffered, and therefore others, not in your group must suffer in order to relieve your groups suffering. A separate peace (piece) of enrichment and entitlement, is a false hope. For only when you erase the borders that hold your care and concern for others captive, can you successfully do that thing that is the most hard to do; the seeing of yourself, your dreams and hopes in the dreams and hopes of others; you may end up being “float-less”; but at least you will be free to float to the better places of the human heart. Thanks for the sermon!